Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Viral Marketing, Smellvertising, 3D Billboards, and YOU

The way we interact has changed —pure and simple. Human interconnectivity has been redefined in recent years with the continued advancement of mobile technology and the popularization of social network involvement. We’re online all the time and we’re always on the lookout for something new and different. When we don’t get it instantly, we move right along, fun and fancy free.

The emphasis on instant gratification makes it a bit tough for almost any modern business to reach us effectively when they have a product, service or idea to offer. We’ve got the attention spans of inbred goldfish and almost nothing seems to stick anymore. But I’m starting think that keeping the advertising departments on their toes is just what’s needed these days. It seems like the arena of modern marketing—viral marketing in particular—is becoming quite the innovative landscape.

I’m not sure if it’s due to the the growing network of technological tools in our cultural arsenal or to the outlandish efforts on the part of advertisers to reach our attention and our wallets, but there are some rather nifty promotional practices going on these days.


Just last month, an online promotion to raise awareness for breast cancer was initiated on Facebook and went viral after only a short time. It relied on the use of a recurrent meme, and the campaign—ultimately dubbed I Like It On…—saw thousands of women updating their statuses to read something along the lines of “I like it on the floor,” or “I like it on the table,” or “I like it in the kitchen,” and so on. But the statuses weren’t just referring to unique places women like to “make whoopee.” Rather, they were referencing where they prefer to leave their purses. So, the campaign ultimately relied on innuendo to generate a significant amount of online buzz. It was talked about, it was debated, it was a tad bit controversial (entrusting its effectiveness to sexual connotation rather than facts about the cause), but for all intents and purposes, it was a marketing success!

Several of the newest billboard ads popping up in the U.S. and abroad are interesting as well. The effort is obviously to use more invasive design strategies in order to get passersby to pay more attention. Paramount Pictures recently promoted the critically-acclaimed cinematic masterpiece Jackass 3D by putting up “3D billboards” in select cities. Large ramps were set up adjacent to road-side billboard signs, plastered to which were mannequin motorcyclists meant to look as if they had crashed head-on into the billboard and were stuck there. A billboard with a little more depth and an interactive feel is certainly a better idea than a flat, static advertisement.

Bloom's Steak-Scented Billboard

Bloom’s steak-scented billboard

But, better still is a billboard that recently popped up in North Carolina for a grocery store chain called Bloom. A replica of a giant fork appears to hold the billboard up, and showcased on the sign is a picture of an absolutely mouthwatering morsel of a steak, held aloft by the fork. (The picture on the left is courtesy of an article by Store Brands Decisions). The best part: this nifty roadside ad actually pumps a beef scent into the air around lunchtime and in the early evening just to get drivers hungry. That’s right, “smellvertising” is here!

More and more, we’re starting to see these and other attention-grabbing techniques; some are in the form of viral campaigns (many of which include wacky giveaways and contests) and others just off-the-wall ideas that may or may not catch on. I guess my two cents is that it ultimately makes sense for promotional campaigns to be structured around evermore progressive business models. Models that incorporate more than just the tried and true methods. It’s this kind of forward-thinking that I like to read and hear about these days!


Are any of these marketing techniques particularly interesting to you? Have you heard of any other viral advertising campaigns or promotional giveaways that use innovation like this?


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. QLP Jill

    A billboard that smells like steak!?! That’s incredibly innovative! Do you have any idea how many people have probably driven by that, gotten hungry, and stopped at that grocery store? Advertising like this takes things to new heights…and it makes me anxious to see what marketers will come up with next!

    I didn’t participate in the “I Like It On” campaign this year, but my newsfeed was overrun with friends who took part in it. Many guys were confused and constantly asked the girls what it meant, but their lips were sealed. You’re right – this is good for some buzz about the cause!

    This post reminded me of all the innovative and interactive promo items we have on our site (like the vibrating grenade stress ball, for example). All it takes is a creative spin or two and you could make your product the topic of all sorts of conversations! 🙂

  2. Cybernetic SAM

    Gross I think that is a little too far, not are you only rubbing it in to people who can’t afford a steak, but picture youself wanting to step outside for a lap of fresh air and as soon as you hit the door you are wafted with different and pungent aromas all over the place as this idea catches on. For example; this corner smells like steak, ew this corner smells like chocolate, and over hear it smells like popcorn, hot dogs, soup, pizza etc… I would get REALLY sick of that really fast. THAT IS AIR POLLUTION! Clever, but gross.

    • JJ "Suite G"

      I like to think of it as more of an air “treatment” than a pollution. Who needs fresh air when there’s steak in the air? It’s just better that way.

      But seriously, this type of advertising could conceivably be regulated. There would need to be a certain proximity between scented areas, of course, but it could definitely work on a larger scale.

      For example, there would need to be at least a 2-3 block radius between scents that are disbursed simultaneously. These 2-3 block segments can be referred to as “scent-divisions.” Each scent-division can contain only one advertised scent which can only be disbursed at certain points throughout the day. Multiple companies in the same scent-division will be more than welcome to utilize this advertising tactic, but never at the same time–only one scent at a time. Scent-disbursement times must be purchased according to market value (yet to be determined), and scents must be authorized.

      I’ll be writing a letter to the zoning commission on this matter to get the ball rolling.

      • QLP Jill

        I think you’re on to something there, Joe! I’d contact the zoning commission sooner rather than later.

        Just imagine: your job title could be “Scent-Disbursement Specialist” or “Scent-Division Coordinator” or something like that…although, the former doesn’t sound too great now that I think about it. Haha! 😉

      • Cybernetic SAM

        Touche’ Joe, Touche’.

      • Gas Master 5000

        What happens if someone farts within the proximity of a smellvertising billboard and that fart smell mixes with the steak smell… Is that considered a zoning violation?

  3. Scooby DOO!

    So what exactly is the attention span of inbred goldfish? And when is the last time someone said “whoopee” in reference to sex?

    J.- TOO Funny.

    I have NO problem with M&M’s pumping out the smell of chocolate, or Keebler pumping out fresh baked cookies; but steak? What does steak smell like again? I am not sure a piece of meat has a great or distinguishable smell, unless its rotten.

    I can’t imagine why they did not have a hunk of fish on that billboard…

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I am going to try my hardest to not even imagine the effect of having a hunk of fish up there. It would be kind of awesome for like a landscaping company to have a fresh cut grass scent, and ironic too! 😉

  4. Bret Bonnet

    I <3 this post!

    … If you think about it… Bakeries and even some other chain restaurants already use smellvertising – billboard or NO billboard. I can't tell you how many times I've walked by our local neighborhood bakery and wanted to run in and purchase a cookie or some fresh bread just because it smells SO GOOD! It doesn't matter if I just got finished hounding down a 50 Oz. rib eye a few moments before walking by… I can't resist the smell of fresh baked treats! 🙂

    I do however question the effectiveness of a scented billboard. I mean… I'm in my car, I'm stuck in traffic, and the person in front of me doesn't know how to turn their darn blinker off… the mesmerising aroma of steak is only going to make me that much more upset; and regardless of my mood – I'm already GOING SOMEWHERE… My mind has been made, I don't think I'm going to rush to the next exit for some beef!

    10 points for creativity though!

    PS. "I Like It On… the hood of my car" – JK!

  5. replicas

    I love the smell of puddin in the morning…………..

  6. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Florida

    I dislike advertisements designed to annoy me. Take Geico TV ads featuring some smart aleck little wimp in a suit asking me id woodchucks chuck wood ? I swear, I go out of my way NOT to buy from Geico because of these ads. Same with the air head Progressive Insurance girl, she got old months ago.

    • JJ "Suite G"

      Agreed. Geico ads in particular are sorely lacking in originality these days!

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